I am about a quarter of the way into my Jordan Year, and for the most part I have been challenged in ways that have both enriched my convictions and shattered my sense of security.
As much as I hate believing it, my grandmother, the woman who helped to raise and care for me, the woman who I eschewed other opportunities to be present for, the woman who by the very nature of her presence has made some of my worst moments from this past year bearable, is dying. She has no chronic illness, not one cancer, or ALS, or dementia, or Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s, but is dealing with a multitude of minor setbacks and illnesses that have, over the past four years, robbed her of her ability to walk and move freely and that have made her immune system very weak. Although the death blow has not happened yet, the elephant in the room will be, when will God call her home. I hope not for some time, but everyone is preparing for it. Half-heartedly, but preparing nevertheless. That has shaken my sense of security.
On a brighter note, I’ve felt more love and appreciation from my students this year than I did last year. I’m not quite sure what it is, but the feels are much more present. I could handpick a few students that embody this, but I could’ve done the same last year. This year, regardless of the class period, there seems to be a fuller understanding of belonging or at least feeling appreciated, wanted, accepted. I might be exaggerating, but for the sake of thinking of the positive, I have to go to those lengths. To illustrate the kind of thing that I am talking about, I’ll quote a student that I had who was switched to a colleague’s class roughly five weeks into the year. The student said: “I miss this class. I mean Mrs….. is a good teacher, she teaches and explains things, but she’s just not Mr. Rafi”. I can’t put my finger on one thing, and I cannot say that I am a highly effective, world-changing teacher through both academic and personal content, but there is something to say about the cultures that I have been able to build, especially this year. For better or for worse, I am proud of that.
A major reason why I called on the idea of love in the title of this soliloquy is because, while I have strong love and support from my family, and definitely feel some level of love within the classroom, I feel that love is something that is missing in my life (I know, I know, first world problems). Two of the most prominent young rappers in Chicago, the larger than life Chance the Rapper and the low key sage Mick Jenkins, released albums that at their core are about love this year. And as this year draws to a close and I think about what I want for Christmas, all I can think about is love.
I want love that is not limited by rules and regulations (not that I would ever touch a student). I want love that goes deeper than political ideology and “wokeness”. I want love that goes deeper than family. Love that goes deeper than friendships. Love that goes deeper than spouses, significant others, partners, playmates, etc. My religious brethren might call for the love of God, but what I truly want is a love that aspires to be that agape, godly, unconditional love. A love that isn’t bound by relationship (mother to son might aspire to be agape, but it is based on who you are to each other).
I want a love that persists even when I can’t begin to say that we’re friends. I want a love that isn’t sustained by seeing each other everyday or every week. But I also don’t want a love that has to be re-kindled by seeing each other. This is a paradox beyond paradoxes. This is a love that cannot exist. But instead of aspiring to replicate God’s love for his children (again a relationship), I’m calling on myself to strive to find love that has never been seen or experienced. A form of love that there are no songs for. A form of love that is not written in scripture. Instead it is merely written in the winds of the world when that group or couple or person existed.
If I fail to find that form of love it’s ok. I’m shooting for the center of the universe with this one. But even if I fail to make it that far, I also must pledge to better appreciate the love that I do have. Deep, unconditional, agape, or shallow, conditional, relational.
I have a group of friends, most of them know each other, who I consider to be my sisters. I’m trying to at least, if I don’t find that superunnatural love, to grow that manufactured family. But that’s for another day.
Thanks for allowing me to rant. I’ll be back next week with more random thoughts that come to mind.